Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday blamed engine failure for the horrific plane crash which claimed 48 lives, even as the country’s top civil aviation body launched a probe into the tragic accident. The PIA plane PK-661 with 48 people, including famous pop singer-turned-Islamic preacher Junaid Jamshed, his wife and Deputy Commissioner Chitral Osama Warraich, on board crashed yesterday in Saddha Batolni village near Havelian while en route to Islamabad from Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
According to the airline, the plane was an ATR-42 turboprop aircraft, which lost contact with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Islamabad’s Benazir International Airport en route from Chitral. PIA Chairman Azam Saigol blamed engine failure for the deadly crash.
“Around 4:15 PM the ATC received an emergency call from the pilot who informed them about the engine failure. A few minutes later, a mayday distress call was received from the pilot,” Saigol told reporters.
The ATR-42 aircraft involved in the crash had undergone regular maintenance, including an ‘A-check’ certification in October, Saigol said.
“I want to make it clear that it was a perfectly sound aircraft,” Saigol said, ruling out technical or human error.
Pakistan authorities were conducting DNA testing to identify the victims of plane crash as most of the dead bodies were charred beyond recognition.
According to rescue official Ghayoor Mushtaq, all bodies had been retrieved by 02:00 AM this morning and shifted to Ayub Medical Complex in Abbottabad.
A military official said three helicopters have been deputed to transport the bodies to Islamabad. They will be then moved to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad and Combined Military Hospital in neighbouring Rawalpindi.
Dr Junaid of Ayub Medical Complex said only six bodies were recognised while others will be identified through DNA matching.
Jamshed, two Austrians, and a Chinese national were on the ill-fated PIA flight.
The pilot of the ill-fated ATR-42 made his first call to the air traffic control soon after the flight took off. He said the plane’s left engine was not functioning and moments later followed with a panicked, ‘Mayday! Mayday’.
Minutes before the plane crashed at 4.15 PM, the pilot made the emergency call requesting permission for an emergency landing. The plane vanished from the radar screen and soon after and the communication system stopped.
Aviation Division Secretary Irfan Elahi said the Civil Aviation Authority’s investigation board, headed by Air Commodore Munir, would lead the inquiry into the cause of the deadly crash.
“We hope the black box will be found soon which can help investigators. At the moment, there is no other reason for the plane crash other than the failure of the left engine,” he said.